Daily Archives: February 20, 2015

(WSJ) E. Wesley Ely–Love, Faith and the Lost Battalion

Through marriage, it became clear, Mr. Callis had undergone the type of indelible change in a soul that no personal injury or earthly event can undo. “Having someone believe in me and waiting for me back home, that is what gives me purpose. I am more than myself because of our marriage,” he said, expressing his hope that people not give up on marriage even when the sparks of romance seem distant.

All this brought to mind the words of the German Lutheran pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, when he wrote from a Nazi prison to his niece before her wedding: “Marriage is more than your love for each other. . . . In your love you see only the heaven of your own happiness, but in marriage you are placed in a post of responsibility toward the world and mankind. Your love is your own private possession, but marriage is more than something personal””it is a status, an office.”

The story of Ford and Daisy generated lots of discussion on hospital rounds that day. Theirs was not a tale of military or medical rescue, as exciting and perhaps technically interesting as those were. It was one of marital rescue. This covenant has liberated their souls and given them a higher purpose. Each of us that day, married or not, caught a glimpse of where our true north lies and a reminder of when we are at our best””in serving another.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NPR) Saudis Grow Increasing Critical Of The Campaign Against ISIS

…privately, the Saudi view is that the air campaign against ISIS, now more than six months old, is not working.

“Having simply these pinprick attacks on certain areas is not going to resolve the issue,” says Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former Saudi intelligence chief who also served as the ambassador to the U.S. from 2005-7.

An outspoken member of the royal family, Faisal, 70, no longer holds a senior post. But his views are considered to reflect the general thinking of the Saudi leadership.

He says the air strikes against ISIS are too limited and not well coordinated. In addition, he insists the coalition effort is undermined by politics in Europe and mistrust in the Middle East.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Islam, Middle East, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Saudi Arabia, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(Touchstone) Michael Avramovich–Is Anyone Really Born Homosexual or Lesbian?

In promoting the homosexualist agenda, activists and their allies have argued with the ferocity and absolutism of sturmtruppen that those who have homosexual and lesbian attraction are “born that way,” and that, in all cases, such attraction is immutable. They will often compare homosexual attraction to skin color. Therefore, any antipathy towards those who experience homosexual or lesbian attraction is akin to racism. Thus, moral disapproval by Christians or others of homosexual and lesbian activities and relationships is tantamount to hatred for those persons who have same-sex attractions. Even my occasional blogs about the homosexualists and their agenda always draws the greatest number of comments opposing my views. It has even penetrated deeply into our culture. For example, in the current season of Downton Abbey, set in bucolic Yorkshire during the mid-1920s, the footman Barrow is told by the local village physician that any effort to change his homosexuality is futile. Building on the physician’s remark, today’s activists argue that because homosexuality is 100 percent immutable and heritable (though the search for the homosexual gene has proved elusive even after the entire human genome has long been mapped). Accordingly, any effort to help homosexuals or lesbians change their orientation, or to diminish the attraction for same-sex individuals, or to fail to affirm such attraction, is not only cruel and futile, but also harmful.
But could this truly be so? Is one born homosexual or lesbian? Well, to answer that question, rather than focus on my views and/or the views of conservative Christian academics and researchers, it is important to observe that such claims are rejected by many serious “LGBTQ” academicians and thinkers. The always interesting and deeply thoughtful author, feminist scholar, and lesbian Camille Paglia, writes in her book Vamps & Tramps:

Is gay identity so fragile that it cannot bear the thought that some people may not wish to be gay? The difficulties in changing sexual orientation do not spring from its genetic innateness. Sexuality is highly fluid, and reversals are theoretically possible. However, habit is refractory, once the sensory pathways have been blazed and deepened by repetition”¦.[H]elping gays learn how to function heterosexually if they so wish, is a perfectly worthy aim. We should be honest enough to consider whether homosexuality may not indeed be a pausing at the prepubescent stage when children anxiously band together by gender.

Emphasis added. Building on Ms. Paglia’s point, a number of studies have indicated that today’s teens will often identify themselves as “gay” or “queer,” but the overwhelming majority will no longer consider themselves to be so by their early 20s.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Science & Technology, Sexuality, Theology

(Yorkshire Post) GP Taylor: The Church must stop us giving up on Lent

Without any doubt, we have to admit that the traditions of the Church are becoming less and less relevant. As we pursue money and happiness, there is a demise in the place of God in our lives.

However, there is something about Ӭthe idea of Lent that appeals to the human condition. Glossy magazines are full of tips on how to detox, to get the body back in shape by watching out what you put in. Getting healthy is promoted through giving up that which is bad for you.

Perhaps this mantra for the modern age should be the public relations tip needed by a Church that is failing to connect with the modern world. Mainstream religion is being quickly replaced by do-it-yourself spirituality. People are looking to other options for filling that God-shaped hole in their lives that cannot be satisfied by anything else.

The Church could tap in to this growth of new spirituality by rebranding Lent for a modern world. The current guidelines by the Catholic Church for Lent are that no meat is to be eaten on a Friday, and meals are to be restricted to one meal a day and snacks at breakfast and tea. This isn’t exactly the kind of thing that will get people queuing to join in.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, England / UK, Lent, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Theology

Friday Mental Health Break–Niagara Falls Freezing Over Is a Spectacular Sight

NBC News meteorologist Dylan Dreyer heads to a frigid Niagara Falls to check out the frozen-over falls.

Amazing pictures–watch it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * General Interest, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Photos/Photography, Travel, Weather

(CNS) R. Catholic Bishops put high priority on fighting moves to allow assisted suicide

As New York lawmakers began to consider a bill to legalize physician-assisted suicide, the New York State Catholic Conference launched a new website “to offer Catholics moral clarity and guidance on the church’s teachings regarding end-of-life decision-making.”

“Talking about death and dying can be difficult and uncomfortable, yet perhaps no conversations are more profound or necessary for all of us,” says the “About” section of the site. “The fact is that most of us will face challenging decisions regarding treatment and care at the end of life, either for ourselves or our family members.”

Developed with a grant from Our Sunday Visitor, the site provides links to resources, church teaching, advance directives and a variety of Catholic sources all across the country.

The Catholic church teaches that physician-assisted suicide is immoral and unethical.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Aging / the Elderly, Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, State Government, Theology

(The Atlantic) Graeme Wood–What ISIS–'a religious group with.considered beliefs'-Really Wants

ithin the narrow bounds of its theology, the Islamic State hums with energy, even creativity. Outside those bounds, it could hardly be more arid and silent: a vision of life as obedience, order, and destiny. Musa Cerantonio and Anjem Choudary could mentally shift from contemplating mass death and eternal torture to discussing the virtues of Vietnamese coffee or treacly pastry, with apparent delight in each, yet to me it seemed that to embrace their views would be to see all the flavors of this world grow insipid compared with the vivid grotesqueries of the hereafter.

I could enjoy their company, as a guilty intellectual exercise, up to a point. In reviewing Mein Kampf in March 1940, George Orwell confessed that he had “never been able to dislike Hitler”; something about the man projected an underdog quality, even when his goals were cowardly or loathsome. “If he were killing a mouse he would know how to make it seem like a dragon.” The Islamic State’s partisans have much the same allure. They believe that they are personally involved in struggles beyond their own lives, and that merely to be swept up in the drama, on the side of righteousness, is a privilege and a pleasure””especially when it is also a burden.

Fascism, Orwell continued, is

psychologically far sounder than any hedonistic conception of life ”¦ Whereas Socialism, and even capitalism in a more grudging way, have said to people “I offer you a good time,” Hitler has said to them, “I offer you struggle, danger, and death,” and as a result a whole nation flings itself at his feet ”¦ We ought not to underrate its emotional appeal.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Eschatology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(Church Times) C of E Bishops’ call for vision provokes anger

The House of Bishops has called on politicians to offer a disillusioned electorate a bigger vision of society in the run-up to May’s General Election.

In a pastoral letter to the members of the Church of England, released on Tuesday, the Bishops note how both the Labour government of 1945 and then the Thatcher government from 1979 “changed the political weather”. However, neither of these two transformative ideologies – either establishing a welfare state or freeing markets from state interference – is enough today, they say.

“Neither vision addresses our condition,” the Bishops write. “Placing excessive faith in state intervention on the one hand or the free market on the other” leads to a narrowing of ambition does not nurture the common good.

This is the first time the House of Bishops has released such a letter before an election. The letter, which is 126 paragraphs long, does not offer support to any party, but seeks to get Anglicans thinking about how best to use their vote on 7 May.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(The Economist Erasmus Blog) Pope Francis and the Copts Blood and ecumenism

Pope Francis is himself conservative enough to see that those problems, baffling as they may be to outsiders, run too deep to be solved overnight. But he is throwing out a challenge. People who cannot come together for a ritual of sacrifice in a church are being cast by circumstances into a single, dire community of fate. In one sense, that very fact renders their differences irrelevant. It also challenges people living in safer circumstances to work harder on tearing barriers down.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Coptic Church, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ecumenical Relations, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pope Francis, Roman Catholic, Terrorism

A Prayer to Begin the Day

O Lord our God, who art of purer eyes than to behold iniquity: Have mercy upon us, we beseech thee, for our sins accuse us, and we are troubled by them and put to shame. We have done wrong to ourselves in ignorance, and to our brethren in willfulness, and by our selfish and faithless ways have grieved thy Holy Spirit. Forgive us, we humbly pray thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

–Prayers for the Christian Year

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Lent, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples; and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said to them, “What do you seek?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying; and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).

–John 1:35-42

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

(LA Times) On Ash Wednesday, two deacons deliver on the streets of Beverly Hills

Two deacons, one Episcopal, one Catholic, were standing on a street in Beverly Hills, in front of Tiffany’s, across from Louis Vuitton.

It could have been the set-up for a joke ”” and some passersby thought it might be. Or maybe somebody was filming something? They stood and stared at the men dressed in purple stoles, white surplices and long black cassocks.

“Are you real? For real?” one woman in oversized Chanel sunglasses asked Scott Taylor of All Saints Episcopal Church and Eric Stoltz of the Church of the Good Shepherd.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Episcopal Church (TEC), Lent, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(HBR) A Formula to Stop You from Overcommitting Your Time

When I dive into time coaching clients’ schedules, I consistently discover that people misdiagnose themselves as having a “productivity” problem when, in fact, their bigger issue is an overcommitment problem. When they have committed to more external projects and personal goals and obligations than they have hours for in the day, they feel the massive weight of time debt. One of my coaching clients suffered from a huge amount of false guilt until he realized he had the unrealistic expectation that he could fit 160 hours of tasks into a 40-hour workweek.

Effective time investment begins with accepting the reality that time is a finite resource. This acknowledgment frees you to make choices about what you will and won’t do so you can invest more in what’s most important, feel good about what you do and don’t get done, and still have disposable time left to relax and enjoy yourself. As one of my time coaching clients put it, “I’ve realized there’s only X amount of time, so I need to invest in my priorities and understand that when I choose one activity, I’m not choosing another.”

The single most important factor in feeling like a time investment success or failure is whether or not your expectations of what you will accomplish align with how much time you have to invest.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Theology

(WP Wonkblog) Nation’s top nutrition panel: the American diet is killing us

America, please eat more fruits and vegetables.

A new report by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which convenes every five years, says that the rest of the American diet is having devastating effects: about two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese. And maybe worse, about half of American adults – about 117 million people – have preventable chronic diseases related to poor diet and physical inactivity, the group said.

This dismal diagnosis is the foundation for the group’s report, which provides the scientific basis for the nation’s Dietary Guidelines, the advice booklet that will be issued by the federal government late this year.

“I wouldn’t call it gloomy,” said Marian Neuhouser, a committee member from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA. “I call it reality.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Theology

(Commonweal) Joseph Komonchak–Augustine in Lent

For some fifteen or twenty years I have tried to read a sermon, or portion of a sermon, of Augustine every morning for spiritual reading. I had never read most of his sermons before, but now that I have, I have discovered a different Augustine from the one I had known and from the one known to people who are familiar only with his great works, the Confessions, the City of God, and the Trinity.

As I discovered the Augustine reflected in his preaching, I began to take notes of passages that particularly struck me either for personal reasons or because of their significance for my theological work, especially in ecclesiology. (It is an occupational hazard for theologians that almost anything they read, even for spiritual reading, can quickly become grist for the theological mill.) I have several files of such excerpts in my computer, and it was on them that I drew for the first series of Lenten excerpts. They did not follow any particular order, and neither will the ones presented this year. They are passages that interest me for their theological, spiritual, or psychological insights, or for the nice balance Augustine achieved between the objective and subjective dimensions of the Christian life, or for their vivid language, not least of all for the literary conceits that I learned to love when studying John Donne and other metaphysical poets (snap quiz: What are the two ways in which Christ may be compared to a camel?), or for reasons having to do with the unplumbed condition of my psyche, or simply because I was having fun.

Scholars estimate that Augustine preached some 8,000 times over his decades as bishop of Hippo, less than a tenth of which have survived. (That’s why there was such excitement when in 1989 thirty sermons, most of them completely unknown before, were discovered in a medieval manuscript.) Most of the sermons were preached at one or another type of gathering of the Church, mostly in Hippo, the others in Carthage and elsewhere in north Africa; a few of them were dictated by Augustine to complete his commentaries on the Psalms and on St. John’s Gospel. The sermons preached were taken down in shorthand by stenographers in his congregation and later written out in longhand and preserved in Augustine’s library. Augustine hoped to include his sermons and letters in the work of “reconsiderations” that he carried through for most of his published works, but controversy and death prevented him from doing so.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Lent, Theology

Andrew Symes: Grace and Disagreement – what about Truth?

The Church of England’s “Shared Conversations” were officially launched in a low key manner at the February Synod: the website www.sharedconversations.org/ went live, and two booklets were published under the title “Grace and Disagreement”. The first of these booklets, subtitled “Thinking through the Process”, explains how facilitated discussions around the divisions over sexuality were recommended by the Pilling Report of November 2013. We now have a clear insight into the philosophy behind these “Conversation” meetings which begin after Easter, and the questions those taking part are going to grapple with on our behalf.

the guidance given in this booklet does not seek to defend and uphold that teaching (as one might expect from an official publication) but repeatedly assumes that it is up for negotiation, and even that those who still believe in it are the minority. The booklet tries to be “neutral” in giving equal weight to different views, and moves towards the conclusion that the important thing is not whether homosexual relationships are right or wrong in the eyes of God (since apparently we cannot ultimately know this for certain), but how we reach a place of “Good Disagreement” and model it to a world where bitter and even violent conflict is often the default position.
There is a positive reference to discussing the suggestion in the Pilling Report of “Pastoral Accommodation”, whereby the Church would retain its traditional understanding of marriage, but allow services of prayer for Dioceses and congregations to “mark” commitment, virtue and faith in a same sex relationship. A version of this has been agreed by the Church of Scotland, whose report is commended for further study in the companion booklet (along with other essays written from different viewpoints). The author denies categorically that the Conversations have a pre-agreed outcome or that they will be manipulated in any way. This is despite the clear steer towards a “mixed economy”, based on an understanding of church as having almost limitless diversity, because of uncertainty about truth. The whole tenor of the document assumes that no matter how far apart and incompatible the views of the participants, because of “the warmth of shared faith” (Pilling), unity in the institution can be maintained.

In terms of relating to the worldwide Anglican Communion, the document shows awareness of how a decision for example to bless same sex relationships in the C of E could damage relationships and cause mission problems in other Provinces. The “Continuing Indaba” project of the Anglican Communion Office is endorsed as a solution: it has had a clear influence on the plan for Shared Conversations. However, it was previous incarnations of this Indaba process as used by American and Canadian revisionists, promoting “conversation” while facts were created on the ground in the blessing of same sex relationships and appointment of non-celibate gay clergy and Bishops, which split the Communion in 2003. Its principles and methods have been rejected as wrong by what has become the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans or the GAFCON movement. In a recent Pastoral Letter the GAFCON Primates say:

“we reject the process of “Indaba” as it is being implemented. Rather than seeking true resolution, it has been consistently manipulated only to recruit people to unbiblical positions. “Indaba” as currently practiced, is a fiction advancing human desires that are not informed by Gospel truth.”

This recent history has been airbrushed out of the “Grace and Disagreement” document.

The deliberate lack of clarity on theological foundations underlying the Conversations will be seen by many as a denial of the truth of the Gospel and undermining the ethical witness of the Church. Many orthodox Anglicans believe that the Conversation process is biased towards a revisionist agenda, and irredeemably flawed…

Read it all

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury

Evangelicals and Catholics Together–The Two Shall Become One Flesh: Reclaiming Marriage

arriage is in crisis throughout the Western world. The data from the United States alone tell an unmistakable””and unmistakably sad””story. Fifty years ago, some 70 percent of American adults were married; today the figure is just over 50 percent. Then, close to 90 percent of children lived with their natural parents; today fewer than two-thirds do. The birth rate has declined, and the abortion rate has climbed from less than 1 percent of live births to over 20 percent.

Everyone suffers from the current crisis in marriage, but some suffer more than others. A growing class divide is becoming alarmingly clear. College-educated men and women marry and are unlikely to get divorced. The less educated are less likely to ­marry, and those who do so are three times more likely to get divorced. Rates of illegitimacy are even more striking. A very small percentage of college-educated women have children out of wedlock (6 percent). Nearly half of women without a college education now have children out of wedlock.

In considering the demise of marriage culture and the decline of the institution of marriage, we are profoundly aware of the challenge posed by the Lord, that “whatever you did to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Matt. 25:40). The effects of the decline of marriage on children are dramatic, unequal, and deeply disturbing. Among the well-educated and economically well-off, the traditional family remains the norm. This is no longer true for children born to less educated and less affluent women. By age fourteen, nearly half of these children no longer live with both parents, posing dire consequences for their futures. Young men raised in broken families are more likely to go to prison. Young women in these circumstances are more likely to become pregnant as unwed teenagers. The dramatic decline of marriage is a major factor in the misery of many in our society.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture